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Star Wars Rogue One: The Black Series Three Review

sw-black-series-3_2016Hasbro gets diverse with their latest wave of 6″ Black Series action figures.

While the first two waves of Black Series figures released this Fall focused largely on Rogue One, the third wave ignores the first Star Wars Story entirely. Instead, this lineup features two Fan Poll winners, a pair of Imperial soldiers from The Empire Strikes Back, and the final core characters from A New Hope.

I’m not quite sure why Hasbro opted to drop this decidedly non-Rogue One related assortment mere weeks before the film hits theaters, but the lineup features enough great new figures– and enough interesting choices from elsewhere in the Star Wars mythos– to easily forgive this dubious decision.  What we get here are Ben Kenobi and Princess Leia from A New Hope, effectively completing the core cast of that film in 6″ form, as well as a Snowtrooper and AT-AT Driver from Empire, offering two more classically themed troop builders to the collection, as well as both 2015 Fan Poll winners, Darth Revan and Sabine Wren.

As we’ve come to expect from The Black Series, each of these figures features a solid sculpt. Across the board, the detail in each is outstanding, whether it’s the realistic draping of the Snowtrooper’s hood, the intricate detailing on Revan’s armor, or the naturalistic hair patterns sculpted into Leia’s buns.  Each figure also features a great range of articulation, and smart choices for accessories as well.  The only area where these figures vary drastically in quality is the paint department, but we’ll get there.

I’m going to start with the best of this latest assortment, which is the two Fan Poll winners Revan and Sabine. These figures are among the best releases within the history of The Black Series, bar none.  Revan was the technical winner of last year’s Poll, and his selection poses an interesting twist for The Black Series, as the dark warrior is the first character released who might not be canon anymore.  Revan was part of the Knights of the Old Republic video game, whose connection to the current, Disney-owned Star Wars mythos is vague at best… but he makes for a great figure regardless.

Like other Black Series figures, Revan combines sculpted details with soft goods, but he is among the most successful design to mix media.  The figure features a cloth cape and skirt, both of which feature some nicely rendered scoring and tears, which accentuate the character’s nomadic aesthetic while also allowing for a full range of motion in his lower half.  These cloth accents are coupled with a sculpted rubber hood and cape shoulders, an incredibly smart decision that allows Revan’s hood to rest perfectly over his mask, unlike Emperor Palpatine’s awkward fabric hood.  It all comes together for a striking visual presentation here, despite the rubber hood limiting Revan’s head movement (a worthy sacrifice, all things considered), and this guy looks straight up awesome in neutral or action poses, with his red and purple lightsabers.

Sabine Wren came in second place in the Poll, but she was such a close runner up that Hasbro opted to release her, as well. I’m glad they did, because this figure is outstanding. Easily the best realistic take on a Rebels design we’ve seen to date, Sabine sports a removable Mandalorian helmet, twin blasters with holsters, and a remote detonator accessory.  The helmet is made of thin, soft rubber that fits very snugly over her head, which is perfect in that she winds up perfectly proportioned with the helmet on or off.

The paint work on Sabine is probably the most intricate I have seen from Hasbro, with lots of awesome tampo work and realistic paint splatters adorning her armor from top to bottom. The end result is a multi-layered design that perfectly matches Sabine’s penchant for graffiti and art, adding both realism and character into the figure’s design in a thoughtful and effective way.  One word of warning with Sabine– her helmet’s antenna is a separate piece, pegged into the snug-fitting helmet… because everything fits together so tightly, the peg inside the helmet can rub paint off the side of Sabine’s head, so I would advise you take it on and off carefully.

In terms of overall quality, the next best pair of figures in this lineup are the Snowtrooper and AT-AT Driver.  The sculpts on both are great, and I have little to complain about in terms of the AT-AT Driver. He’s great, perfectly proportioned, and feels more sturdy than the similar Tie Pilot figure, overall.  While the sculpt of the Snowtrooper is excellent– and he’s loaded with relevant accessories including a rifle, blaster, and his removable backpack– Hasbro went too far in differentiating the tones of white in this figure’s pallet.  The armor and mask are great in their perfect optical white, but the trooper’s uniform underneath is way too dark, appearing as practically tan.  And the weathering on his boots and the bottom of his skirt are even darker still, which really throws off this figure’s overall appearance.

Lastly, we have arguably the two most important additions to The Black Series, as Ben Kenobi and Leia round out the core team of heroes from A New Hope in the 6″ format.  Ben is great, a straight re-release of the 2016 Comic-Con exclusive (read our review here).  Leia, on the other hand, is just as problematic as the New Hope Luke figure released earlier this year.  A big part of this is her soft goods dress, which is okay, but– like Luke– takes up too much cloth real estate on the overall figure. I like the way her sleeves drape over her forearms, and appreciate that she comes packed with the hood mashed down against her back so it doesn’t stick up straight, but overall the cloth dress doesn’t quite work for the figure’s benefit.  Sure, there’s lots to like here, such as the intricately sculpted and gloss-finished boots beneath Leia’s robes, and the aforementioned sculpt of her iconic hairdo, and even the inclusion of both Leia’s needle blaster and an Imperial weapon… but the dominant use of soft goods and the slightly-off portrait (strangely, the animated style 3.75″ Rebels Leia somehow bears a better resemblance to Carrie Fisher than this figure does) leave Leia squarely at the bottom of the pack, in terms of both this wave of figures, and The Black Series as a whole.  In terms of the latter, she’s much better than Palpatine or New Hope Luke… but let’s be honest– that isn’t saying much.

I guess when you have a wave of figures six deep, the odds that the end result will be more of a mixed bag increases, and in the end this set truly feels like a mixed bag… in the best way possible.  While many of the design choices on display here are downright remarkable, such as the perfect marriage of mixed media on Darth Revan, the spot-on sculpting of Kenobi and the AT-AT Driver, or the painstaking and brilliantly character-relevant paint work on Sabine… the wave overall is weighed down by some equally bad or simply confusing and confounding choices.

Even in the worst offenders of this wave, it’s ultimately hard to not recommend them to any Star Wars collector.  Even if Leia and the Snowtrooper are pretty underwhelming, they’re important enough additions to the OT that I’m sure most people will pick them up regardless.  But if you take anything away from this review, I hope it’s that Hasbro killed it with the fringe characters in this wave, Sabine and Revan.  Even if you’ve never played KOTOR or watched Rebels, these figures are so smartly designed, so well sculpted, and so perfectly Star Wars that it would be a genuine shame to not add them to your collection.

Look for the third wave of 2016 Black Series figures at GameStop stores now. They should be hitting other retailers in the near future, as well.

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